Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

What Am I Thinking?

I am such an Introvert–yes, with a capital I. I truly renew my energy when I am alone or with a small group. It takes a lot for me to enter a convivial group, but I do it because I know it stretches me and helps me learn–and I love the friends I have made on the Internet and at conferences and in so many learning places–and I want to see and connect with them all.  So I am here at ISTE15, but I am in my room, skipping #HackEd, because I have to sort out some thoughts about the momentous Supreme Court decision made yesterday–to allow marriage between any two consenting adults.

“The decision is a reminder that “change is possible, shifts in hearts and minds [are] possible,” he [President Obama] said.

“This nation was founded on the principle that all people are created equal,” he said. “People should be treated equally no matter who they are or who they love.”

I am an Introvert, yes, and I am also gay. Early in my career, I almost lost my job over being accused of it. I had to deny who I was, and I had to deny who I loved to keep my job. So I’ve been there–in a spot of being discriminated against because of who I am. I’ve been there–surrounded by judgmental people who wanted to do something mean to me just because of who I am. And, I’ve been there–thinking there was something wrong with me because of who I am.

I sit here and write on WordPress, and look at the rainbow header–their doing, not mine. I think of the picture of the White House–the White House, for goodness sake, bathed in rainbow colors!

whitehouselights4

I think of all of the amazing responses we have gotten from folks when my partner of 22 years and I announced we had decided to get married this summer. I think of a post I saw on FB by my partner, Becky, about all of the bible thumping folks and hope it is read…This is an interesting read for folks who are thumping the Bible over today’s SCOTUS ruling – http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3397304.  I think of all of the rainbows I have seen all over Facebook in the last 24 hours, and I think of the kids I teach.

Because despite all of my past fear, hurt and anger, (at times), over the discrimination I have been shown, what I mostly think about today is the children. They will grow up in a different world than I did. They will hopefully not be threatened with losing their job over who they are. And they will hopefully be in a school system that will support them and encourage them to be who they are, as they figure that out. Not all of us know right away who we are, and even more importantly who we want to become and what we can do to get  there.

I watched a boy in one of my schools, who at 7 years old in 2nd grade, wanted to be a girl, and was pretty vocal about it. He wanted to play with dolls, to play with the girls at recess, and to wear girl clothes. The school’s reaction, when the parents asked for advice, was to counsel them to get him psychological help. The school counselor put him in a social skills group with other boys to help him develop friendships. He was seated at a table of boys to help him have role models. He was encouraged to play in the “boy games” at recess. No one dealt with his very real feelings that he was different. No one talked with the other kids about what he verbalized to them. The very caring classroom teacher sought advice from other teachers, but she, too, didn’t know what to say or do. I didn’t speak up at the time, because I was still afraid I would be branded and ousted as the gay teacher if I spoke up. I hate that I let my own fear keep me from offering support and help to those parents, and that child. He moved at the end of that year, so I don’t know what happened, but I often think of him (or maybe her, now.)

I think of all of the people who, for one reason or another, judge others and treat them differently because of that. I think of the bible teachings I learned as a youngster–“Judge not, lest ye be judged” and think of all of the hypocrites I have known–that claim to be Christian, but judge anyway–and treat others according to that judgment. And I think of how that treatment changes folks–kids or adults–in how they think about themselves, how they perceive their interactions with others, and how that affects who they are and who they become.

And I want teachers, everywhere to realize there is a LOT of literature out there right now with gay characters, with transgender characters, with characters who are struggling with eating disorders, or mental or physical disabilities–and with many, many other issues kids deal with, often without help. Developing empathy in kids supports kids who need it getting help. Reading and talking about books like this change kids.

When we read Out Of My Mind

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 3.15.10 PM

as a group of third graders, I had a kid say she didn’t want a child like Melody in her room because it would take too much of the teacher’s time and she wouldn’t learn as much. I kept pushing books on her that dealt with kids with issues and two years later, in fifth grade, she said it was one of her favorite books of all times.

We can make a difference…

…with all kids–whether they be introverts, extroverts, gay, transgender, biracial, questioning, incredibly smart, incredibly needy (for whatever reason), disabled (however that may be), “normal” (whatever that means) and/or any other way kids are. We can make a difference no matter who or how they are.

So as we sit in our sessions at ISTE15, (or any conference, or any professional development, or any meeting, or any classroom, for that matter)  and talk with the folks we see rarely, at conferences, I am thinking we need to always think about what we are helping the children learn–what are we inadvertently teaching them by NOT talking about issues important to them?

What are we saying when we have no books about gay kids or parents, when we don’t talk about the social issues they are engaged in, when we ignore the pain we see in their eyes or faces as they walk in our rooms? We, as educators, need to be open to all sorts of learners, to all sorts of people, and, more importantly, we need to help them empathize, to care, and think deeply about who and what they are and want to become.

We need to help everyone in our lives understand we are all people–mostly with the same insides, and mostly with the same goals in life–to survive (and thrive), to be happy (have fun), to be loved, to be safe, to belong, to have control over our lives, and be free to be ourselves.

I’m thinking we need to be familiar with lists of books that help kids understand other kids.

Here are some to get you started:

Top 13 YA Books for Talking to Teens about Tough Stuff

Popular Teen Issues Books

Best Teen Books About Real Problems

And I’m also thinking we need to get some serious conversations going among educators about how to shift hearts and minds, as President Obama said.

What are you thinking?

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3 thoughts on “What Am I Thinking?

  1. Thank you Paula, for your honesty and for reminding us all that we have little people in our classes that deserve the best we can give them each and every day. Thank you for your service to your kids and to our community of learners. You’re an inspiring lady!

  2. jenorr73 on said:

    I am way behind in my reading due to the end of the school year and ISTE, but I’m glad I’m getting caught up when it means I finally read this. This is one of the most beautifully written pieces I’ve read lately. Thank you for taking the time to write this and for being brave enough to share so much in ways that will help so many.

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